Funeral Business Advisor sat down with Matthew Paul Buxton, a funeral director and embalmer with Buxton and Bass Okeechobee Funeral Home and Crematory located in Okeechobee, Florida to learn more about his career and experience in the funeral industry.
Did you always want to be a funeral director?
I remember being interested in the business since the age of 5. My dad, Paul M. Buxton, started the original Buxton Funeral Home in August of 1980. At the age of 5, I had a three piece suit and I would run flowers to the cemetery with my mom and follow my dad around. My passion for the business blossomed from there. Getting to work alongside of my dad gave me some great memories and it was some of the best times of my life.
What steps did you take to become a funeral director? What was the process like for you?
I had already planned on becoming a funeral director when I graduated from high school, but my mom felt that I needed something else under my belt. So I attended the University of Florida and worked towards a Business Administration degree. After two years, I knew that wasn’t what I wanted and I was ready to be an active funeral director. I came home and went to our local state college for a summer and then transferred all my prerequisites to St. Petersburg College where I ultimately graduated and established my license.
What is your favorite thing about working in this industry?
The people. They come in at the hardest time and I make sure that all of their needs and wants are met. Secondly, and most important I want them to leave with a positive memory of the job that we did for them. My attention to detail is second to none and I put a lot of effort into the personalization of the service.
What makes the Buxton Funeral Home stand apart from others in the area?
The funeral home is almost 16,000 sqft and I also have a 5,000 sqft building that houses the embalming room, dressing room, refrigeration, crematory, and all of our cemetery care equipment. We are a very laid back funeral home. I only put a coat and tie on when I absolutely have to do so. I probably do more services by request of the families in jeans and a white shirt than I do in coat and tie and this relaxed atmosphere is something that families really appreciate, it helps put them at ease and makes the process a little less intense for them.
You were nominated for this feature by AP Lazer. What is your relationship like with them?
It’s a phenomenal relationship. With the support I got from AP Lazer I was able to learn very quickly how to use their machine and ultimately became good friends with Tong Li, the owner, and our relationship just blossomed from there. He invited me to go on a tv show with the company to showcase a few of the different ways that I use the machine in the funeral industry. I am always trying to think outside of the box and come up with creative ways to use their laser machine.
I didn’t buy the machine to make money per say, I bought it to promote my business throughout the community. I give away plaques for events, make trophies for local groups, and donate to my local first responder departments. I can use the laser to engrave and make my own urns which has doubled my overall urn sales, since I can offer the engraving service.
Facebook played a big role in how I initially established a connection with AP Lazer. When I use the machine, I am doing something that I truly enjoy that allows me to use my artistic background. Every time I made something, I would post it on AP’s Facebook page and they took notice of me and my interest in their product. Facebook also gave me a platform to help others out as well who were interested in learning how I created what I was making. I really enjoy helping others learn how to use the AP Lazer machines to their fullest potential.
How are you involved in your community?
The shorter list would be how am I not involved in the community. Just to name a few, I am the Master at the Masonic Lodge in Okeechobee, I am on the Board of Directors of Hospice, and I am part of the BRAT Club (Building Relationships Among Teens). BRAT is a scholarship based club that helps local kids connect with each other through dances and events we organize. I always try to help out any organization I can.
How do you define excellent customer service?
To me excellent customer service is always being available, it’s that simple.
Looking forward to the future, what are you most excited about? Do you have any concerns?
In our industry cremation is something that is a decrease in revenue, but having the laser and being able to keep my urn sales up and looking into different ways of making urns is a good thing. It’s a challenge, but as cremation grows we have to adapt to be able to accommodate the customer and keep our numbers up. I’m excited for the future, because even though change brings uncertainty and that’s scary, it’s also an opportunity to grow and discover new ways to serve our families.
Do you have any advice that you would share with other funeral directors, especially the younger ones just now entering the profession?
I have a great staff behind me that allows me to stay very involved in my community, having a solid staff to support you can make or break your career as a funeral director. My daughter recently graduated from high school and she is planning on being a funeral director as well. I always tell her that you have be comfortable and supportive around of the families we help and willing to take the load off their shoulders. I also always push her to embrace technology because if you stay completely old school, you will be left behind. You have to constantly be looking for ways to improve your business and embrace the change, because the day you stop and back off, your business will ultimately suffer. FBA